Watching Paint Dry

“I have come to think that boredom is the worst of all a tramp’s evils, worse than hunger and discomfort, worse even than the constant feeling of being socially disgraced. It is a silly piece of cruelty to confine an ignorant man all day with nothing to do; it is like chaining a dog in a barrel, only an educated man, who has consolations within himself, can endure confinement. Tramps, unlettered types as nearly all of them are, face their poverty with blank, resourceless minds. Fixed for ten hours on a comfortless bench, they know no way of occupying themselves, and if they think at all it is to whimper about hard luck and pine for work. They have not the stuff in them to endure the horrors of idleness. And so, since so much of their lives is spent in doing nothing, they suffer agonies from boredom.” – George Orwell, “The Spike”

Assorted sizes and flavors

“After breakfast we had to undress again for the medical inspection, which is a precaution against smallpox. It was three quarters of an hour before the doctor arrived, and one had time now to look about him and see what manner of men we were. It was an instructive sight. We stood shivering naked to the waist in two long ranks in the passage. The filtered light, bluish and cold, lighted us up with unmerciful clarity. No one can imagine, unless he has seen such a thing, what pot-bellied, degenerate curs we looked. Shock heads, hairy, crumpled faces, hollow chests, flat feet, sagging muscles—every kind of malformation and physical rottenness were there. All were flabby and discoloured, as all tramps are under their deceptive sunburn. Two or three figures there stay ineradicably in my mind. Old ‘Daddy’, aged seventy-four, with his truss, and his red, watering eyes, a herring-gutted starveling with sparse beard and sunken cheeks, looking like the corpse of Lazarus in some primitive picture: an imbecile, wandering hither and thither with vague giggles, coyly pleased because his trousers constantly slipped down and left him nude. But few of us were greatly better than these; there were not ten decently built men among us, and half, I believe, should have been in hospital. This being Sunday, we were to be kept in the spike over the week-end. As soon as the doctor had gone we were herded back to the dining-room, and its door shut upon us. It was a lime-washed, stone-floored room, unspeakably dreary with its furniture of deal boards and benches, and its prison smell. The windows were so high up that one could not look outside, and the sole ornament was a set of Rules threatening dire penalties to any casual who misconducted himself. We packed the room so tight that one could not move an elbow without jostling somebody. Already, at eight o’clock in the morning, we were bored with our captivity. There was nothing to talk about except the petty gossip of the road, the good and bad spikes, the charitable and uncharitable counties, the iniquities of the police and the Salvation Army. Tramps hardly ever get away from these subjects; they talk, as it were, nothing but shop. They have nothing worthy to be called conversation, bemuse emptiness of belly leaves no speculation in their souls. The world is too much with them. Their next meal is never quite secure, and so they cannot think of anything except the next meal.” – George Orwell, “The Spike”

It was nice work while we could get it

“Citizens are those who, at the very heart of the general conflagration of the social sphere, persist in proclaiming their abstract participation in a society that now only exists negatively, through the terror it exercises over everything that threatens to abandon it, and in so doing, to survive it. The accidents and the rationality that produce the citizen all point to the heart of the imperial enterprise: to attenuate forms-of-life, to neutralize bodies; and the citizen advances this enterprise by self-annulling the risk he represents to the imperial environment.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (emphases in original)

Is it bleeding, screaming, or burning

“Under Empire, the very persistence of the formal trappings of the state is part of the strategic maneuvering that renders it obsolete. Insofar as Empire is unable to recognize an enemy, an alterity, an ethical difference, it cannot recognize the war conditions it has created. There will therefor be no state of exception as such but a permanent, indefinitely extended state of emergency. The legal system will not be officially suspended in order to wage war against the domestic enemy, against the insurgents, or whatever else; to the current system will simply be added a collection of ad hoc laws designed to fight the unmentionable enemy. Common law will thus transform into a proliferative and supererogatory development of special rules: the rule will consequently become a series of exceptions. The sovereignty of the police, which have again become a war machine, will no longer suffer opposition. They will recognize the police’s right to shoot on sight, reestablishing in practice the death penalty which, according to the law, no longer exists. They will extend the maximum time spent in police custody such that the charges will henceforth amount to the sentence. In certain cases, the ‘fight against terrorism’ will justify imprisonment without trial as well as warrantless searches.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (internal quotes and citations omitted)

We have met the enemy, and they are us

“Imperial war has neither a beginning nor an end, it is a permanent process of pacification. The essential aspects of its methods and principle have been known for fifty years. They were developed in the wars of decolonization during which the oppressive state apparatus underwent a decisive change. From then on the enemy was no longer an isolable entity, a foreign nation, or a determined class; it was somewhere lying in ambush within the population, with no visible attributes. If need be, it was the population itself, the population as insurgent force.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (emphasis in original)

Going rogue

“Empire’s reconfiguration of hostilities has largely gone unnoticed. It has gone unnoticed because it first appeared outside metropolises, in former colonies. The prohibition on war—a simple declaration with the League of Nations that became actual with the invention of nuclear weapons—produced a decisive transformation of war . . . . Since all war between states has become criminal with respect to the world order, not only do we now see only limited conflicts, but the very nature of the enemy has changed: the enemy has been domesticated. The liberal state has folded into Empire to such an extent that even when the enemy is identified as a state, a ‘rogue state’ in the cavalier terminology of imperial diplomats, the war waged against it now takes the form of a simple police operation, a matter of in-house management, a law and order initiative.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (emphasis in original)

It’s just a flesh wound

“The warrior is not a figure of plenitude, and certainly not of virile plenitude. The warrior is a figure of amputation. The warrior is a being who feels he exists only through combat, through confrontation with the Other, a being who is unable to obtain for himself the feeling of existing. In the end, nothing is sadder than the sight of a form-of-life that, in every situation, expects hand-to-hand combat to remedy its absence from itself. But nothing is more moving, either; because this absence from self is not a simple lack, a lack of familiarity with oneself, but rather a positivity. The warrior is in fact driven by a desire, and perhaps one sole desire: the desire to disappear. The warrior no longer wants to be, but wants his disappearance to have a certain style. He wants to humanize his vocation for death. That is why he never really manages to mix with the rest of humankind: they are spontaneously wary of his movement toward Nothingness. In their admiration for the warrior can be measured the distance they impose between him and them. The warrior is thus condemned to be alone.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (emphasis in original)

It’s survival in the city, when your back’s against the wall

“Every war machine is by nature a society, a society without a state; but under Empire, given its obsidional status, another determination has to be added. It is a society of a particular kind: a warrior society. Although each existence is at its core essentially a war and each will know how to engage in confrontation when the time comes, a minority of beings must take war as the exclusive aim of their existence. These are the warriors. Henceforth the war machine will have to defend itself not only from hostile attacks, but also from the threat of the warrior minority breaking off from it, composing a caste, a dominant class, forming an embryonic state and, by turning the offensive resources at its disposal into the means of oppression, taking power.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (emphases in original)

Sanding and filling

“Empire is well-armed to fight the two types of secession it recognizes: secession ‘from above’ through golden ghettos—the secession, for example, of global finance from the ‘real economy’ or of the imperial hyperbourgeoisie from the rest of the biolpolitical fabric—and secession ‘from below’ through ‘no-go areas’—housing projects, inner cities, and shanty-towns. Whenever one or the other threatens its meta-stable equilibrium, Empire need only play one against the other: the civilized modernity of the trendy against the retrograde barbarism of the poor, or the demands for social cohesion and equality against the inveterate egotism of the rich.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program

Rethinking it over

“Rethought as a totalizing system (differentiated into private, interdependent, functional subsystems or fields of autonomous decision-making and auto-regulating capacity), that is, as a modular-corporate system, the computerized metropolis appears as a vast, barely disguised penal colony.” – Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini, Gocce di sole nelle cità degli spettri (translated and quoted in Tiqqun, This Is not a Program)

Just say yes

“Dressing up what is hostile to the system of representation in the guise of the ‘negative,’ ‘protest,’ the ‘rebel,’ is simply a tactic that the system uses to bring within its plane of inconsistency the positivity it lacks—even at the risk of confrontation. The cardinal error of all subversion therefore lies in the obsession with negativity, in an attachment to the power of negation as if that were its most characteristic feature, whereas it is precisely in the power of negation that subversion is most dependent on Empire, and on Empire’s recognition of it.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program

One world

“Through arrogance, ‘international police’ operations, and communiqués declaring permanent victory, a world presented as the only world possible, as the crowning achievement of civilization, has finally been made thoroughly abominable. A world which believed it had completely insulated itself has discovered evil at its core, among its children. A world which celebrated a common new year as a change of millennium has begun to fear for its millennium. A world long settled in the house of catastrophe now warily grasps that the fall of the ‘socialist bloc’ didn’t portend its triumph but rather its own ineluctable collapse.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program

Now get back to work

“Empire is when the means of production have become the means of control and the means of control the means of production. Empire signifies that henceforth the political moment dominates the economic moment. And the general strike is powerless against it. What must be opposed to Empire is the human strike. Which never attacks the relations of production without attacking at the same time the affective relations that sustain it. Which undermines the unavowable libidinal economy, restores the ethical element—the how—repressed in every contact between neutralized bodies.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

Peekaboo, it sees you

“Imperial sovereignty means that no point of space or time and no element of the biopolitical tissue is safe from intervention. The electronic archiving of the world, generalized traceability, the fact that the means of production are becoming just as much a means of control, the reduction of the juridical edifice to a mere weapon in the arsenal of the norm—all this tends to turn everyone into a suspect.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

Let’s you and him fight

“Empire perceives civil war neither as an affront to its majesty nor as a challenge to its omnipotence, but simply as a risk. This explains the preventive counter-revolution that Empire continues to wage against anyone who might puncture holes in the biopolitical continuum. Unlike the modern State, Empire does not deny the existence of civil war. Instead, it manages it. By admitting the existence of civil war, Empire furnishes itself with certain convenient means to steer or contain it. Wherever its networks are insufficiently instrusive, it will ally itself for as long as it takes with some local mafia or even with a local guerilla group, on the condition that these parties guarantee they will maintain order in the territory they have been assigned. Nothing matters less to Empire that the question, ‘Who controls what?’—provided, of course, that control has been established.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

A passive aggression

“There is something militant about deconstruction, a militancy of absence, an offensive retreat into the closed but indefinitely recombinable world of significations. Indeed, beneath an appearance of complacency, deconstruction has a very specific political function. It tries to pass off anything that violently opposes Empire as barbaric, it deems mystical anyone who takes his own presence to self as a source of energy for his revolt, and makes anyone who follows the vitality of thought with a gesture a fascist. For these sectarian agents of preventive counter-revolution, the only thing that matters is the extension of the epochal suspension that fuels them.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

The stasis of the unscrewed

“Deconstruction’s task is, apparently, to produce fastidious commentaries targeting anything that, in the history of thought, has carried any intense charge. This new form of policing that pretends to be a simple extension of literary criticism beyond its date of expiration is, in fact, quite effective in its own domain. It won’t be long before it has managed to rope off and quarantine everything from the past that is still a little virulent within a cordon sanitaire of digressions, reservations, language games and winks, using its tedious tomes to prevent the prolongation of thought into gesture—in short, to struggle tooth and nail against the event.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

Know your rights

“It is the right of one placed under arrest to submit to custody and to reserve his defenses for the neutral tribunals erected by the law for the purpose of judging his case. An inference of probable cause from a failure to engage in discussion of the merits of the charge with arresting officers is unwarranted. Probable cause cannot be found from submissiveness, and the presumption of innocence is not lost or impaired by neglect to argue with a policeman. It is the officer’s responsibility to know what he is arresting for, and why, and one in the unhappy plight of being taken into custody is not required to test the legality of the arrest before the officer who is making it.” – Justice Robert H. Jackson, United States v. Di Re

It’s military, it’s industrial, and it’s simple

“The law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, and in this case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public. For this to happen efficiently, the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible.” – Frank Kitson, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, Peace-Keeping

What it is, man

“The logic of the modern State is a logic of the Law and the Institution. Institutions and the Law are deterritorialized and, in principle, abstract. In this way, they distinguish themselves from the customs they replace, customs which are always local, ethically permeated, and always open to existential contestation. Institutions and the Law loom over men, their permanence drawn from their transcendence, from their own inhuman self-assertion. Institutions, like the Law, establish lines of partition and give names in order to separate and put things in order, putting an end to the chaos of the world, or rather corralling chaos into the delimited space of the unauthorized—Crime, Madness, Rebellion. And both Law and Institutions are united in the fact that neither has any need to justify itself to anyone, no matter what. ‘The Law is the Law,’ says the man.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

The Law laws

The Law laws

“The Law sets up divisions and institutes distinctions, it circumscribes what defies it and recognizes an orderly world to which it gives both form and duration. The Law ceaselessly names and enumerates what it outlaws. The Law says its outside. The inaugural gesture of the Law is to exclude, and first of all its own foundation: sovereignty, violence. But the norm has no sense of foundation. It has no memory, staying as close as possible to the present, always claiming to be on the side of immanence.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

Tamp it down

“A man of society, a drawing-room man who can make himself agreeable to women when he pays a call, is always a man whose principal concern is to suppress any arresting spontaneity, not to let his own personality show through. For it is a man’s own personality that people find irritating. People like to meet the average man, the normal man, the man who has nothing exceptional about him. The exception is always irritating.” – Miguel de Unamuno, “Large and Small Towns”

The great democratizer

“There is no visible Outside any more—nothing like a pure Nature, the Madness of the classical age, the Great Crime of the classical age, or the Great classical Proletariat with its actually-existing Homeland of Justice and Liberty. These are all gone, mostly because they have lost their imaginary force of attraction. The outside is now gone precisely because today there is exteriority at every point of the biopolitical tissue. Madness, crime or the hungry proletariat no longer inhabit a defined or recognized space, they no longer form a world unto themselves, their own ghetto with or without laws. With the dissipation of the social, these terms become reversible modalities, a violent latency, a possibility each and every body might be capable of. This suspicion is what justifies the continuous socialization of society, the perfecting of the micro-apparatuses of control. Not that Biopower claims to govern men and things directly—instead, it governs possibilities and conditions of possibility.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

Pennies for Mr. Two-Scoops

“At first glance, Empire seems to be a parodic recollection of the entire, frozen history of a ‘civilization.’ And this impression has a certain intuitive correctness. Empire is in fact civilization’s last stop before it reaches the end of its line, the final agony in which it sees its life pass before its eyes.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

And not to kill each other

“Without a minimum of common assurances, it is not possible for men to live together in society. If they are not to massacre each other, men must agree on a certain number of fundamental questions: what is good, what evil; what is true, what false; what is beautiful, what ugly.” – Ignazio Silone, “Ferrero and the Decline of Civilizations” (trans. Darina Silone)

From the autosarcophagous

“The various bourgeois revolutions never tampered with the principle of personal sovereignty, insofar as an assembly or leader, elected directly or indirectly, never deviated from the idea of a possible representation of the social totality, i.e. of society as a totality. As a result, the passage from the absolutist State to the liberal State only managed to liquidate the one person—the King—who liquidated the medieval order from which he emerged, and whose last living vestige he seemed to be. It is only as an obstacle to his own historical processes that the king was judged: he composed his own sentence, his death the period at the end of it. Only the democratic principle, promoted from within by the modern State, was able finally to bring down the modern State. The democratic idea—the absolute equivalence of all forms-of-life—is also an imperial idea. Democracy is imperial to the extent that the equivalence among forms-of-life can only be implemented negatively, by preventing, with all the means at its disposal, ethical difference from attaining in their play an intensity that makes them political.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)